Montreal Jazz/Funk Collective Busty & The Bass Drop Some Deep Noise (INTERVIEW)

The creatively admired Canadian label Arts & Crafts is home to many a renowned band- including Broken Social Scene, Stars, and Andy Shauf. The eight-piece Montreal jazz/funk collective, Busty & The Bass is bringing a retro-flavored soulful blast to the Arts & Crafts label with their recently released new LP Eddie, a well-needed spoonful of groove during a WTF 2020 year.

Produced by Neal Pogue (Tyler the Creator) and executive produced by Earth Wind & Fire’s Verdine White, the 12 tracks successfully mix a gritty new jazz and funk sound that seamlessly incorporates facets of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings next to Mark Ronson and Ellie Goulding. Eddie features guest spots from both George Clinton and Macy Grey, while each track like a Gorillaz album is its own musical story. Glide caught up with saxophonist/vocalist Alistair Blu about the new album and dropping some stateside soul on Canada.

Congrats on the release of Eddie. You probably had the choice to hold off on the release- why did you feel the time now is appropriate?

Thank you. It feels weird typing out an interview but I guess now I can make sure I’m not saying anything I shouldn’t! I think for the release of Eddie it has actually been a lot longer of time than most people realize. Some of these songs came into being around 2-3 years ago. It was a long process of recording, switching labels, reaching out to features, etc. I know some of us (myself included) would’ve liked to release music even earlier than this but if I’ve learned anything from the music industry then I know that patience is key. I think if we’d have waited post-pandemic to release the album then not much would’ve changed besides being able to follow up with touring right away. People still want to hear new music and I’m confident that over time, when the world sorts itself out and touring kicks off again, our audience will still be itching to hear us play these songs live.

Why the album title and who is Eddie? 

Eddie, who’s introduced in the album’s title track, represents something unique to all of us in the band. In general, he’s kind of the central theme behind this collection of songs. He represents our collective past identity in a way. For me, I see Eddie as sort of this imaginary member of the band that embodies all of our emotions, struggles, and overcomings. The album is a collection of songs for our younger selves (or for Eddie) and expresses the necessary reassurance that all will be alright.

How did all these songs come together and did you intentionally try and steer your sound in new directions from 2017’s Uncommon Good?

I think it’s natural for directions and styles to evolve over time. There wasn’t anything intentional about steering our sound away from our last album. The songs on Eddie came together all separately and each has its own story and originating process. I think the differences that you hear on the album represent our own individual desires for change and creative evolution. For me, I’ve been getting more into singing and using my vocals in a more dynamic way (which you can hear on “Time Don’t Make Me a Stranger” or “Baggy Eyed Dopeman”). We don’t like to put ourselves in any boxes otherwise we feel trapped and stagnant and unable to express our true creative selves. All of these feelings combined allowed us to constantly change our sound, and I’m quite confident the next record will sound very different from this one! 

This is your first release on the Arts & Crafts – undoubtedly the most respected indie label in Canada. What has being on that label meant to you and what have they provided in terms of support and influence that you may not have had previously?

Arts & Crafts is a dope label. They have a level of professionalism that enables them to get shit done very well and in a timely manner. Cameron Reed, the director of marketing at A&C has been our go-to guy for spitballing creative ideas and helping us with marketing ideas. There’s a lot of talk that gets tossed around about whether labels are even needed anymore in this digital age. There are also lots of stories of artists getting trapped in terrible 360 deals with major labels and having no independent musical freedom. However, labels can also offer lots of connections with other creative people that can lead to collaboration and other projects. With a label like A&C, they basically let us do our thing and provide their educated two cents while taking care of tons of behind-the-scenes things that pop up daily. We’re definitely very honored to be on their roster and understand the time and energy they put towards our album release. 

Did you hear from any other label mates since joining up?  

We haven’t had the chance to collaborate with any label mates yet. It wasn’t too long after signing with A&C that COVID-19 took over the world. That’s definitely something I’d like to do in the future though. There are a lot of very talented artists and bands at the label that I’d love to do something with. Andy Shauf and BADBADNOTGOOD are a couple standouts. We’ve played separate shows with both acts over the past several years, but I think getting in the studio would be an awesome opportunity to create something unique together.

 Soul, Hip hop and funk hasn’t been represented much in Canada and particularly bands from Montreal. Would you agree and do you feel that sound is misrepresented and understood where you’re from

I think that the music industry, in general, isn’t properly represented. If you only care about what the corporate giants like Spotify or Apple Music are feeding you, you’re only peeping into a tiny corner of the huge musical landscape that Montreal or Canada or the rest of the world has to offer. That’s why I’m a huge advocate for alternatives to streaming, like Bandcamp, where artists can actually have a platform to sell their music and merchandise and not have to rely on editorial playlists to further their careers. I recognize that streaming has helped our band in a huge way, however, and without our connection to Spotify we would not have had such a widespread impact and been able to tour as extensively as we have. I also think some of our mainstream success can be attributed to our whiteness. I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come and I believe we deserve the success that we’ve garnered over the years, however, it’s a reality that corporate entities and mainstream media outlets show bias towards non-BIPOC bands and artists. So having said all that, yes I do think that Soul, Funk, and Hip-Hop is misrepresented in Montreal and Canada, specifically from a commercial perspective. Let’s shine a light on some of the acts that have been building a community around them and carrying on the legacy of this music in Montreal: Kalmunity Vibe Collective, Urban Science Brass Band, Fredy V. & the Foundation, Nomadic Massive, Alan Prater, Waahli, Meryem Saci, Nora Toutain, Melissa Pacifico, Sarah MK, Nate Husser, Kris the $pirit, Shash’U, Malika Tirolien, Zaya Solange… the list goes on.

The first track “Out of Love” is a sure show stopper- really a magnetic piece of music that mixes shades of British acid jazz and neo-soul. How and why did you decide to work with Macy Gray?

We’ve been covering Macy Gray’s big hit “I Try” for years now. I remember being at a friend’s show in Montreal with some of the guys from the band and Zac Monson (one of the hosts from Stingray Music) mentioned the idea of having Macy as a feature. We’d never really thought about it before that. (There’s your credit Zac Monson!). It was our producer/mixer Neal Pogue who linked it up in the end. Macy Gray’s got that undeniable characteristic voice and turns out it was a perfect fit for the track. 

“Baggy Eyed Dopeman” is another stellar track with help from George Clinton. What can you tell our readers what it was like working with the King of Funk?

It was pretty surreal working with George Clinton. Without Parliament-Funkadelic our band wouldn’t exist. They really laid the foundation for funk music and hip-hop. I remember we were trying to set up a session so a couple of us could fly out to LA to record George in the studio, but for convenience sake we ended up just having him send us his stems. I ended up being on the receiving end of those vocal stems, so I got to produce and tweak them to my desire. It was pretty cool producing the vocals for the King of Funk and listening to him sing the lyrics that I’d written. I still have those stems on my computer somewhere.

Verdine White of Earth Wind & Fire served as executive producer – can you talk some about the direction he gave and the feedback? Do you think you incorporated anything in particular about the Earth Wind & Fire Sound?

Everything we make pays homage to the great artists and bands that came before us (like Earth, Wind & Fire). Verdine has this kind of legendary music mogul aura about him that rubs off on you when you’re around him. His guidance is always positive and uplifting. He and Neal Pogue have been super important when it comes to lending advice or another set of ears for a song. I think Earth, Wind & Fire’s most direct influence on our band can be heard in the horn section. Also, their use of harmony and chord changes have had an impact on our songwriting over the years.

When you are able to get out and play again what are the five venues you miss the most? 

That’s a tough question because I hope that our favorite venues will still exist when this is all over. One thing we can do to try and take action is to follow the lead of the Canadian Independent Venue Coalition. They’ve written a template that you can fill out and send to Members of Parliament and the Federal Government asking for independent live venues to be included in the funding for the Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations. Here’s the link for the template:

https://www.supportcanadianvenues.ca/action 

Instead, I’ll flip your question and answer with 5 cities that I’d love to play when the pandemic is over:

London, San Francisco, Montreal, Tokyo, and São Paulo. 

2020 has been a stellar year for new music – what new music have you been listening to?

Moonchild, Jonah Yano, Thundercat, Bill Withers, Haiti Direct – (Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds), Mndsgn, Parliament-Funkadelic, Roy Ayers, Brian Eno, Allan Rayman, Erykah Badu… (These are all from my “recently played” Library)

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